A PROFESSIONAL in-line skater died when he dodged a car and hit a lamppost, an inquest heard yesterday.
Richard Taylor and two friends were testing their bravery by rolling backwards down a steep hill near his home in Barry.
Cardiff Coroner's Court heard the skaters would often wait until the last second before turning round and skating across a junction in the middle of the road at the bottom of the hill.
Mr Taylor - who at 23 was one of Europe's top skaters - was usually the last to spin round and face forwards.
But one of his friends, Stephen Riddick, yesterday described how Mr Taylor tried to leap onto the pavement to avoid a car. He clipped his boot on the kerb and crashed into a concrete lamppost.
Mr Taylor, who was not wearing a helmet on the practice run last August, fractured his skull and broke both his legs in the crash. He died later at the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff.
Cardiff Coroner Dr Lawrence Addicott said, "It does concern me that they were approaching a corner without any vision of any traffic approaching and, in a way, limited ability to stop and slow down."
After Dr Addicott returned a verdict of accidental death, Mr Taylor's mother Gaynor, 54, said, "We have not stopped living it. It hasn't really got any easier."
Richard had skated since age 11 and turned professional at 16. He left Ysgol Gyfun Glan Taf after his GCSEs to take up extreme sports full time. In a statement read by the coroner, Mrs Taylor said she and husband John took their son and his friends to competitions across the UK and Europe. He picked up a sponsorship deal after a competition in Amsterdam.
She said, "Richard was a very outgoing and enthusiastic person who lived for today. He always managed to cheer people up and hated whingers."
On August 8 last year she got up at 7am to go to work. She knew her son was in bed because his bedroom door was shut, she said.
Later that day Richard went skating around Barry with two friends.
Mr Riddick told the court they were skating backwards down Harbour Road, known locally as The Ship Hill, at about 25mph.
He said, "About halfway down I would say, Richard pulled off and went out in front.
"You could look over your shoulder and see quite easily what was going on.
"As we would go down the hill we would turn round in order of who was the most confident.
"I think at the last moment Richard must have seen a car and changed his mind and cut his foot on the pavement."
Dr Addicott said, "It would seem for some reason that Richard had changed his mind rather than going across the junction."
A month before he died, Mr Taylor won the UK National In-Line Skating championships for the second year running.
He had suffered only two injuries in his career, Dr Addicott heard.
Mr Taylor's parents, of Barry, were grief stricken at the inquest yesterday.
They said their youngest son Robert, 20, had "lost a mentor".
Mrs Taylor said. "They did everything together.
"He didn't just lose a brother, he lost a mentor as well. He looked up to him."
They said the family took comfort from the fact their son's organs had been donated.
Mrs Taylor said, "Two of the organ recipients have written to us. It makes us realise he hasn't just helped them, he has helped their families as well."